Tag Archives: Gaza Strip


BLOG 337 February 14, 2017

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            A young Arab boy was waiting at an intersection in Shuafat Refugee Camp in East Jerusalem. Having sunk down behind the steering wheel of a beat-up sedan, he could barely see over the steering wheel. The boy stuck his arm out the window and signaled like an adult driver before zooming through. He could not have been more than 12-years old.

Unusual? Not in East Jerusalem where virtually no one cares. You can get away with almost anything you want. The struggle has become just that bad.

Westerners are more concerned with Israel and the Old City of Jerusalem and generally give little thought to the Palestinians on the other side, called East Jerusalem. Americans certainly know about the suicide bombers and terrorists who kill children. Those stories have been all over the media. However, there is another more human side to the Palestinian story and we should occasionally visit the deeply personal struggles of everyday citizens who live there and are not terrorist.

Of the 850,00 people living in Jerusalem, around 310,000 are Arabs, living in East Jerusalem with permanent residency but not citizenship in Israel. Apart from Arabs with Israeli citizenship or Arabs in the West Bank, life is far more complicated because they reside in a fragmented and politically tumultuous society. Most of these residents live in poverty and hopelessness. They endure daily discrimination everyday and poor public services across their part of the city. Currently, the rate of divorce and domestic violence against women and children is rising in East Jerusalem.

Hannah Hochner reported in Ma’ariv  that of this vastly Muslim population, 46% are under the age of 18, 37% unemployed, and 51% live below the poverty line. With such upheaval, these Arabs often feel they have nothing to lose in attacking Israelis. They now have a sense of deadlock following the election of Donald Trump with his talk of moving the embassy to Jerusalem.

The Palestinian citizens are caught in a vice. If they make efforts to cooperate with Jerusalem, they would be recognizing and accepting what they call Israeli occupation. The West Bank would see them as collaborators and traitors. On the other hand, when they follow the local mukhtas, who have virtually no leadership capacities, they get nothing.

It’s ease to blame Israel for this dilemma, but that is far from realistic. Israel certainly has their share of responsibility. However, here’s another example of why conditions continue to deteriorate in East Jerusalem. When Yasser Arafat died, he left behind three billion dollars he had pocketed that belonged to the Palestinians. The current PA leadership of Mahmoud Abbas has not proven better as he lost all control of the Gaza Strip to Hamas. While the Arab leadership twiddled their thumbs, the Israelis have built their country into a showcase of the Middle East.

At this point, no one seems to know what will come next.  And that’s the problem!

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BLOG 304 May 30, 2016 MEMORIAL DAY

Memorial Day: A time to remember.

On this day of sacred remembrance, we pause to consider what war has cost us. In the United States, we remember the fallen who fought for our highest values. While the rest of the world has other days of commemoration, universally we salute those who gave their lives and pause in thankful prayer for their sacrifices.

The Syrian Civil War has sent an entire population running for their lives to other countries while a countless multitude have fallen, many into unmarked graves. In Israel, knife attacks have killed 34 Israel soldiers and 190 Palestinians. Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Abbas and the Hamas leaders shed no tears but don’t want the confrontations to flair up and spin our of control. The 2014 Gaza war cost their side far too much.

Today the suffering and misery of the 1.8 million Gazan’s who live in 365-square kilometer ghetto is unbearable. Suicides in Gaza increase everyday. The water is undrinkable and there is no electricity. When a group of refugees attempted to escape across the Mediterranean, their boat capsized and left 500 to drown. Death is a daily specter in the Gaza Strip.

In addition, the war in Gaza left behind a construction crisis. One hundred and thirty thousand homes were destroyed or damaged. To keep Hamas from confiscating cement, iron rods, and construction materials for building attack tunnels, Israel put in place an embargo. Israel and the United Nations have a computerized system to monitor any supply of cement that comes into the Gaza. The result is that the area is in total collapse and looks as devastated as the day the war ended.

Where is it all going? Nowhere. Oh, enough despair exists to produce another uprising. From the Israeli point-of-view, the Palestinians are too dumb not to get the point that more attacks will only result in death. From the Palestinian perspective, they have no other alternative but to die fighting. The result? More death for everyone.

Such terrible alternatives have pushed the world into war after war. Remember the social protest popular song of the 70’s Where Have All the Flowers Gone? ending with, “when will they ever learn?”

On this Memorial Day, may it be a time to learn and demonstrate that we had better understand. We have already stood at more than enough grave sites. Let us commit ourselves to seeking the higher road to peace and being unafraid to walk down the nobler pathway.

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2014 is starting to feel like 1914. (the start of World War I). The smell of smoke is in the air wherever we look from the China Sea to the Ukraine to the Middle East, war or the threat of war, rings through the air.

As the radical militants and jihadist continue to strike, there are important undercurrents in the background that are often not noticed. Such is the case in the on-going war in Gaza. The hidden message in the recent reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas is a case in point and one of the reasons for the continued strikes by Israel. Of course, the fact that Hama fired thousands of rockets on Israel set the stage for the conflict. The refusal to stop and join a cease fire has perpetuated the conflict. The creation of tunnels into Israel to allow terrorist to attack also threw gasoline on the fire.

Hamas’s persistence in firing rockets when the Iron Dome System knocks every one out that comes close to a population center is a tell-tale sign of how Hamas thinks. They believe in bullets and the sacrifice of human life –even when it is their own.

Have you noticed that there have been virtually no Arab responses supporting Hamas from the surrounding countries? The Egyptian government even blamed Hamas and not Israel for dozens of Palestinian deaths. Egypt has kept their border closed, keeping Gaza residents from fleeing to Egypt. As the carnage became worse, a few governments sent out mixed signals that were feeble compared to their screams in other conflicts with Israel.

Within the folds of this silence is a realization of what the reconciliation talks between the PA and Hamas would end up meaning. Hamas has changed its strategy and was using the Hezbollah model from Lebanon. It’s a “bullets plus ballots” approach putting a high emphasis on killing. In Gaza, they maintain 20,000 well-trained military units and security personnel.  Since the June 2007 military takeover of Gaza, Hamas has put 50,000 employees on the public payroll. Hamas has made some shifts to cooperation with the PA, but are actually challenging Fatah in their own backyard. Gaza workshops in turn stepped up production of M-57 missiles.

In other words, Hamas has put more fire-power in the PA and created a greater striking force against Israel. By setting up rockets in residential areas, they seek a propaganda advantage of accusing Israel of attacking women and children. The Israelis aren’t buying it and are destroying all possible sites. Israel will either stop them now or pay the price later.

These adjustments have been spurred by set-backs that directly or in-directly affected Gaza. The loss of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt as well as the cessation of smuggling arms through the Sinai Peninsula hurt Hamas. The decline of financial subsidies from Iran and Qatar blew another log on the fire. Equally bad was the growing resentment of Gaza citizens because of unemployment, hardships, and constant repression. The huge losses in the current warfare won’t help their standing. Moreover, as Israel pounds Gaza militants into the sand, the Israelis are destroying the “bullets and ballots” strategy. Moreover, they are wiping out thousands of rockets and attack tunnels.

The war goes on. Hamas would be smarter to stop firing useless rockets and find a new approach. Anyone for reconciliation? Sorry. The answer is no.

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With pressure mounting from the United States and the United Nations, the war between Israel and Hamas isn’t slowing down. In fact, Prime Minister Netanyahu made it clear Israel would not stop until the rocket attacks from Hamas are ended. An independent observer must wonder about what keeps fueling the fires.

A number of factors exist that keep the attacks coming. Interestingly enough, of the over one hundred rockets Hamas has fired (including one drone down), virtually none have hit any Israeli city or killed one Jew. On other hand, Israel is turning the Gaza Strip into rumble and leveling Hamas structures to the ground. 168 Palestinians have been killed. 1,300 are now in United Nations Shelters. The numbers reflect Israel’s intention to stop the rocket attacks that have gone ceaselessly for months.

Hamas responds that Israeli missiles are hitting mosques and civilian targets – which is true. However, the problem is that Hamas uses the centers to cover their attacks. In order to stop the rocket attacks, these sites must be destroyed. The use of civilian targets to thwart bombing attempts has backfired on Hamas. The bombing of civilian houses is the result of Hamas military officers and operatives living there.

An additional fear that prompts continued warfare is the growing presence of ISIS and its successes inside Iraq. ISIS’S leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi discussed with his lieutenants expanding their attacks beyond Syria and Iraq. Jordan would become an obvious target. While ISIS has no direct connection with Hamas, they share a common goal to establish imposition of Islamic law on women and the persecution of all other religions in the region through the use of violence. The two organization have too much in common to be written off as not having common goals. Obviously, Hamas will be looking for a new supply of weapons and rockets as the Israeli’s destroy what they have left. The specter of ISIS only fuels the flames to stop the terrorist assaults before they get started.

In today’s warfare, Israel knows that time is on its side. The military power differential between Israel and its foes has grown. The current turmoil in the Arabic world only exposes their failure to modernize and unify. In addition, Palestinian terror attacks inside Israel appear to be contained. By the time Israel ends their assaults on Hamas, the politico-terrorist group’s significance will be further pushed into the sand.

The only threat on the horizon is a nuclear Iran. Should Western attempts fail to halt their development of nuclear weapons, Israel is capable of handling this problem.

Why does the war continue? Because it is to Israel’s advantage to do so. The tragedy is that Palestinian Gaza Strip civilians will pay a heavy price for their unconditional support of Hamas.

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You may have turned on the TV last week and been shocked to discover a war had broken out between Israel and the Gaza Strip. If you didn’t follow Middle Eastern events closely, you could have been completely unaware of the constant barrage of rockets fired out of this area. What started the war? Here’s the facts.

Since Israel made a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza area in 2005, 8,500 rockets have been fired into Israel. 13,500 rockets have hit Israel since 2001. Since tht date, an average of three rockets per day have struck Israel. Currently, 5,000,000 Israelis now live in rocket range.

Why did Israel take out the Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari as well as targeting Hamas rocket launchers? The question is not unimportant because United Nations members always blame Israel –regardless. Let’s put it like this …

Mexico starts firing rockets on El Paso, Texas at the rate of 3 a day. This goes on for 7 years. Finally, the United States bombs the launching sites in Mexico. Do you think we’d wait 7 years? 7 weeks? 7 days to stop such attacks? Probably we’d respond in less than 7 hours. The issue isn’t hard to understand.

The basic problem Israel faces is not the rockets as much as it is the Palestinian mentality. Here’s another analogy to explain how they think.

We have a Friday night football game between the Israeli Warriors and the Hamas Rockets. The warriors win by a big 50 to nothing score. The games over and the Warriors go out to get in their bus. The Rockets hide in the bushes but start throwing baseballs at the bus. No matter how defeated they have been, they are going to attack the buses until the last one of them is dead.

Make sense? No. But that’s the way it works.

Yasser Arafat could have achieved peace with a capital in East Jerusalem but he walked away when President Clinton tried to broker a deal. Why? Because the Palestinians want nothing less that Israel to be pushed into the Mediterranean Sea.

Rather than striking a deal and rebuilding their society, they continue down a path of destruction and death. From my encounters with these people, I do not believe they will stop. These attacks and responses will continue.

While no one has clarified the facts, it appears that more rockets have been smuggled in through Egypt. Of course, they are Iranian in origin. Having upgraded from liquid fuel to solid state materials, these new Iranian rockets have a much greater range even shooting at Tel Aviv and hitting Jerusalem. The Iron Dome defense system has proven amazingly accurate, knocking out 90% of the Hamas rocket attacks in this war. Unfortunately, the l0% that break through are capable of significant destruction. This fact alone suggests that Israel will not quickly end the conflict until they have cleaned out the launchers and tunnels that bring rockets in from Egypt.

Suddenly everyone from Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi to the American State Department are scrabbling to bring a cease fire. They should have been working to stop the rocket attacks years ago and there would not be a conflict happening today.

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